Friday, April 25, 2014

What's Up This Week: 28 - 30 April 2014


Next week there is no school on Thursday and Friday in observance of Mali's Labor Day holiday. It seems odd to not work on a holiday about work, but you'll get no argument from me!



Hope to see you at AISB tomorrow (Saturday) for the one-night-only premiere of "In a Good Book," an original play featuring AISB teachers and students as well as members of the expat community (including four U.S. Marines!). This play will be enjoyable for all ages. It starts at 6:00 P.M. and lasts about an hour.


As explained in last week's blog, our Grade 4/5 class will devote all of our time to a service learning project from Monday 5 May to Friday 9 May. Working with Mali Health Organizing Project and 20 students from a local school, we will create a graphic novel about diarrhea prevention, an illness that is the second highest cause of death in Mali (influenza/pneumonia is first).
We are so grateful to the Gbepo family for their generous donation that will allows us to purchase items for gift bags we will present to the Malian students.  And as mentioned last week, we are very thankful for the Diarra family donation that covers the cost of printing the graphic novels, and the Andersen family for hosting the celebration event at their home on 9 May. Thank you also to the families that have offered to bring a dish for this event…your help is much appreciated!

This week we continued our reading unit based on the novel Missing Mayby Cynthia Rylant, about 12 year-old Summer who lives with her aunt and uncle, and how she deals with the sudden death of her beloved aunt. We analyzed a poem to discover the poet's message that we all need someone close to us whom we can trust.
Next we looked at the background of the author, Cynthia Rylant, since her own history certainly influenced this story, as the students will soon discover. We also learned about the reading skill of determining cause and effect as this particular story is based upon the effects of grieving, and how it impacts others.
We spent a good deal of time learning about the Appalachian region in the U.S. which is the setting for this story. This is a region rich in culture and history, but unfamiliar for many of us. Students discovered that this region has a high poverty rate, poor medical care, and high unemployment. But they also learned that the arts have a huge presence here. There is a unique kind of music here, a dance style (clogging), quilting, basketmaking, wood carvings, and musical instrument-making. Now that the students have this background information, the story will be much easier to understand and appreciate.

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We also analyzed the song "Dance with My Father Again" by Luther Vandross. This beautiful, Grammy-Award winning song was Luther's way of remembering his father who had died when Luther was very young. Students noted the repetition of words (e.g. love), the slow tempo, and the way the memories were described so clearly--all ways that help the listener understand the song's message at a deeper level. As we read the novel we will connect these same themes to the plot of the story.


We only began reading the first four chapters, but I can tell from the comments, questions, and other reactions that this story will be meaningful and high-interest for all of the students.
Next week we will continue reading the novel, analyzing a painting, looking at the symbols in the story, and learning new vocabulary:
  • collaborate
  • speculation 
  • surreal
  • bereavement
  • interpreter
  • enthusiasm
  • concrete
  • lunatic

How you can help with reading at home: 

  • Ask your child to describe the arts of the Appalachian region of the United States. What is the music like? The dancing?
  • Have your child describe the first few chapters of the novel. Who is the main character? What does she want?
  • Ask your child to explain the message in the Luther Vandross song "Dance with My Father Again."
  • Check your child's "Read to Succeed" each night/morning. For this daily assignment students read a book of their choosing for at least 20 minutes, then write a short summary of what they read. Their summary should clearly describe the main events in the part of their book they read without including too many unimportant details.
  • Ask your child to read to you for a few minutes from their "Read to Succeed" book so you can check his/her fluency, expression, pauses, etc.

Grade 4: Last week Grade 4 students explored triangles, quadrilaterals, congruent/similar shapes, translations/rotations/reflections, and symmetry. They will also took a short quiz so I could determine if they are clear on these geometric concepts.

Next week Grade 4 students will explore finding the perimeter, area, and volume of various shapes, and will take a short quiz to check their understanding of these concepts.

Grade 5: Last week Grade 5 students graphed a function, graph in four quadrants, solved a few problems using graphs, explored addition and subtraction equations, and took a quick quiz to check their understanding so far.

Next week Grade 5 students will explore multiplication and division equations, and then focus on two-step equations that take a little more thought.  They will also take a short quiz to check their understanding of these concepts.

How you can help with math at home: 

Grade 4
  • Ask your child to explain the different types of triangles we learned about (isosceles, equilateral, scalene).
  • Ask your child to describe the difference between a figure that is congruent (same shape and size as another) and similar (same shape but may be different in size).
  • Using a shape cut from a piece of paper, ask your child to demonstrate a translation (sliding on a straight line), reflection (a flip), and a rotation (spinning from a point).
  • Encourage your child to practice geometry with an online game:

Grade 5
  • Ask your child to describe how you plot a point on a graph (use an ordered pair).
  • Ask your child to explain what each number means in an ordered pair (the first number tells you to move either left or right; the second number up or down).
  • Ask your child to show you how to solve: 6 + p = 17.5 (subtract 6 from both sides of the equation; p = 11.5)
  • Encourage your child to practice the order of operations and algebraic expressions with these online games:

Evaluating Expressions with One Variable:


 Last week students chose the book that will be the subject of their literary essay. They chose a book they've already read, one that had a particular theme, lesson, or character that they connected to in some way. Then they worked on creating a thesis statement and developing supporting details for that thesis.

Next week students will begin drafting their literary essay, not only explaining the lesson or character in their book, but showing how their own life connects to this book.

How you can help with writing at home: 

  • Ask your child to explain what book they chose for this literary essay, and why.
  • Have him/her explain what they will focus on in from their chosen book--a lesson? A character? And how does their own life connect to this?
  • Is your child able to type quickly on the computer? If not, encourage he/she to practice with one of the keyboarding activities at:


This week continued our social studies unit on government called Who's in Charge? We took a close look at the many forms of government that have existed throughout history, and determine if any of these led (or will lead) to that ideal world John Lennon dreamed about.

Next week, after we discuss the political idea spectrum (liberal to conservative) and how citizens can be involved in the political process, teams will each create skits on three of the types go government. They will perform these for the class, and we will guess which form of government they are portraying. I can't wait to see what they do for "anarchy!"


The science iMovies are COMPLETE! I am quite proud of the results, and I think you'll enjoy them immensely. Here is the link to all of the iMovies. I recommend that you choose the "Download" button for the movies you want to watch--trying to stream them here in Bamako is nearly impossible!

This past Tuesday we enjoyed a great performance from the ESOL students in Mr. Chandler's class. They performed the Beatle's "I Want to Hold Your Hand," Disney's "When You Wish Upon a Star" (with Eva on keyboards!), and Pharell's "Happy," a song that brought the house down! Excellent voices and excellent performances!

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 Great job, Mr. Ben!

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Last Monday students were assigned to new teams, giving them another opportunity to work with other students and to build their collaboration skills. This time they chose team names based on the planets.

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And a quick preview of our African masks…….

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 APRIL 2014
Saturday 26 April - AISB Spring Play, 6:30 PM
Tuesday 29 April Elementary arts assembly presented by all classes, 7:30 - 7:45 AM

MAY 2014
Thursday-Friday 1-2 May - No school, Labor Day holiday
Mon. - Fri. 5-9 May - Grade 4/5 Service Learning Project Week
Tuesday 6 May Elementary assembly presented by Music class, 7:30 - 7:45 AM
Wednesday 7 May Progress reports go home (for select students)
Tuesday 13 May Elementary assembly presented by K-1 class, 7:30 - 7:45 AM
Thursday 15 May AISB Elections & Annual Meeting, 7:30 - 7:45 AM
Mon - Fri 19-23 May AISB Africa Week
Friday 23 May - Africa Week afternoon luncheon and assembly
Mon - Fri 26-30 May AISB Teacher Appreciation Week

JUNE 2014
Thursday 5 June - AISB High School Graduation
Friday 6 June - Last day of school

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